England boss Andy Robinson has braced the new-look world champions for a punishing Test against Australia, declaring: "A number of players will be out of their comfort zones".
Robinson revisits Telstra Stadium, the scene of England’s 2003 World Cup triumph, in unfamiliar company.
The starting line-up on Sunday shows 15 changes from that unforgettable November night, with only cup final replacements Iain Balshaw, Mike Catt and Lewis Moody returning for a Wallabies re-match.
Australia though, field seven survivors – George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, Lote Tuqiri, Mat Rogers, Stirling Mortlock, Nathan Sharpe and George Smith – while 118 times-capped Gregan boasts more Test appearances than England’s entire back division.
Robinson also parades three newcomers in scrum-half Peter Richards, lock Alex Brown and flanker Magnus Lund, highlighting the lofty status an England victory this weekend would enjoy on their all-time list of triumphs.
England have lost 11 from 13 Tests on Australian soil, with the degree of difficulty compounded by absent established players, who are either resting before next season’s marathon campaign or nursing injuries.
Robinson also has a new coaching team alongside him in Brian Ashton, John Wells and Mike Ford, yet he stands defiant that England – despite the odds being stacked against them – can make an impression, both in Sydney on Sunday and in the following match in Melbourne.
"We are not contemplating losing," he said.
"It is about stepping up to the plate – we are going to need to raise our game – and while the atmosphere is very positive, it is about how we deliver on the day.
"I have never known an easy Test match against Australia, and we are going to have to work very, very hard to win the game. The players know that, and a number of players will be out of their comfort zones in this match.
"They are going to find out a lot about themselves, which is something we want to happen. I am positive about the game – I have got belief in the players we have selected.
"It is time for us to step up. International rugby is not a cakewalk, it is not a place to be light and easy. The opposition are not going to play touch rugby against you."
England, meanwhile, suffered a setback when Gloucester wing James Simpson-Daniel was ruled out of the tour.
Simpson-Daniel had been due to start on Sunday, but he was admitted to hospital in Sydney earlier this week with a haematoma in his leg.
"James won’t be available for the second Test," said Robinson.
"He is still in hospital, and if he doesn’t need pain-killing injections, he will be released from hospital.
"I went to see him, and it is pretty swollen and very painful."